An exchange student is someone who takes the opportunity to travel abroad in order to live in a new country as part of an exchange program. While they're there, they'll be living with a host family, attending lessons at a local school, and fully immersing themselves in a new culture.
Becoming an exchange student is a fantastic way to get out and see the world, and you'll learn far more about your host country than you would through a short vacation there. There are so many advantages to exchange programs, and I highly recommend signing up for one if you have the chance to.
Programs for High School and College
High school students are eligible for student exchange programs, providing their school has an agreement with a foreign school. If you're interested in the possibility of an exchange program, your first step should be a meeting with your school's guidance counselor. You can also read more about how to study abroad in high school.
If you're a college student, the process is much the same. You should check with your advisors to see if an exchange program is possible. Each university may have its own international exchange program, so research if yours does online, and then start making appointments to kickstart the process.
Popular Exchange Programs
If you want to take matters into your own hands, you can start researching exchange student programs with the following list:
- AFS (American Field Service): The American Field Service offers exchange programs to countries all over the world, from Brazil to Egypt to Hungary to India. Their exchange programs last for either one semester or a full academic year, starting in late-summer or mid-winter. AFS students live with a host family and attend local high schools.
- AIFS (American Institute for Foreign Study): The American Institute for Foreign Study runs exchange programs for both high school and college students. With roughly 25 countries to choose from, there are plenty of opportunities to find the right program for you.
- American Council for International Exchange (ACIS): The American Council for International Exchange holds four-week summer high school programs on university campuses in London, Paris, Rome, Salamanca, and St. Petersburg.
- American Scandinavian Student Exchange (ASSE): The American Scandinavian Student Exchange runs exchange student programs between Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway and the United States. They have so many opportunities for students, whether you're looking to spend a year away, three months away, or spend four weeks over summer getting to know a new country. If you've always wanted to learn a foreign language, their European Summer four-week program is ideal. You'll spend a month in a host family's home and throw yourself into language learning while you're there. This program runs in France, Germany, and Spain.
- AYUSA: AYUSA has exchange student programs running in over sixty countries, and accommodates 15-18-year-olds who want to travel abroad. Programs last either five or ten months.
- Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE): CIEE offers an academic year or semester high school study abroad programs in Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Japan and Spain, and more. There are so many opportunities for heading abroad here, so it's definitely one to check out before you make your decision.
- Cultural Homestay International (CHI): Cultural Homestay International is a non-profit organization offering screened international host family placement for high school students. You can choose to head abroad for either one semester or a full academic year, and there are over 30 countries to choose from.
- The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IASTE): For something a little different, why not consider taking a paid placement abroad? IASTE places students studying for a technical degree in training-related jobs in another country, so you'll get to travel and pick up a valuable qualification. High school and doctorate students are not accepted.
- Rotary Youth Exchange: Possibly the most famous student exchange program, the Rotary Club International has been engaging students in study abroad since 1927. Definitely check these guys out if you're looking for a program with a great reputation and dozens of countries to choose from.